Barbara DeGenevieve

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Barbara DeGenevieve
Barbara DeGenevieve.jpg
Born(1947-05-21)May 21, 1947
DiedAugust 4, 2014(2014-08-04) (aged 67)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Alma materUniversity of New Mexico
Known forPhotography, video, and performance art
Notable workThe Panhandler Project,

Barbara DeGenevieve (1947–2014) was an American interdisciplinary artist who worked in photography, video, and performance. She lectured widely on her work and on subjects including human sexuality, gender, transsexuality, censorship, ethics, and pornography. Her writing on these subjects have been published in art, photographic, and scholarly journals, and her work has been exhibited internationally.

Early life[edit]

DeGenevieve studied photography at the University of New Mexico receiving her MFA in 1980, and began teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign immediately following. She taught at San Jose State University, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the California College of Art before joining the faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1994. DeGenevieve was a professor and chair of the Department of Photography at the School of the Art Institute.[1]


Much of DeGenevieve's art explored the connections among dominance, power, and sex, including their inverse relationships. This led DeGenevieve into controversy, particularly during the National Endowment for the Arts funding scandals of the early 1990s (widely known as "the culture wars") when she, Andres Serrano, and Merry Alpern were stripped of their grants from the NEA in 1994.[2] She spoke on many occasions on issues of censorship as a direct result. On some occasions she used performative texts or poems, gothic costume, and theatrical tactics to amplify her point. She might speak in character as parody or as the subject of her discourse, but always with a sense of humor and charity for her subject.

She continued to court controversy, having established an interdisciplinary and new media arts program at SAIC that instructs students on constructing sexually graphic artworks. She spoke at conferences about her students' work, some of which existed in legal gray areas. In 2010 at the College Art Association she noted:

"Artists like myself and these students who do work that straddles some dangerous lines, such as the possibility of having the work considered obscene and therefore illegal, need to realize that the idea of free speech does not extend to sexual images. Although anathema to any artist, there is a self-monitoring (if not a self-censorship) that now occurs, and must occur to some extent in order for artists to protect themselves from the vagaries of the “fuzzy logic” employed in the interpretation of lens-derived imagery that is sexual in nature." [3]

DeGenevieve's works "showed everyone the rowdy, the provocative. How art should get in your face, really startle you. You should gasp."[4] DeGenevieve photographed five homeless black men from Chicago nude in a hotel room, which received wide recognition for her voices given to the social issues on race, gender and class.[5][6]

DeGenevieve won awards from the National Endowment for the Arts (Visual Artist Fellowship); Art Matters Foundation Fellowship; and the Illinois Arts Council. Her critical and artistic works have been published in Exposure, SF Camerawork Magazine, and P-Form. Ezell Gallery, Chicago, represents her photographic work.[7]

DeGenevieve was born in on May 21, 1947 and died of cancer on August 9, 2014.[8]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

  • Barbara DeGenevieve: Medusa's Cave. Iceberg Projects, Chicago (12 September - 10 October 2015)[9]
  • INTI Terry Adkins, Barbara DeGenevieve, Rochelle Feinstein, Maren Hassinger, Clifford Owens, William Pope.L, Martha Rosler. OnStellarRays, NY (26 June - 29 July 2011) Group Exhibit.
  • Kissy-Kissy. Dean Jensen Gallery, Milwaukee, WI (15 September – 13 October 2007) Works exhibited: From The Panhandlers Project (2004 – 2006)[10]
  • Objectifying the Abject: Exploitation, Political (In)Correctness and Ethical Dilemmas. Gallery 400 at University of Illinois at Chicago (7 – 25 February 2006) Work exhibited: Dee, 2005, Gordon, 2004, Hank, 2004, Leon, 2004, Mike, 2005, The Panhandler Project, 2005[11]
  • I Smell Sex. Visual AIDS, NY curated by Barbara DeGenevieve (October 2001)[12]
  • Face Forward Self Portraiture in Contemporary Art. John Michael Kohler Arts Center (28 May – 27 August 1995) Work exhibited: ASK ME ANYTHING, I HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE (1995)[13]
  • Barbara DeGenevieve: My Words in Your Mouth. Ezell/Gallery 954, Chicago (3–31 March 1995)

Selected works[edit]

  • The Boys in Albuquerque (1978-1979)[14]
  • True Life Novelettes (1979-1982)
  • Large Scale (1981-1985)
  • Cliche Verres (1985-1992)
  • Large Scale Stretched Fabric & Macaroni (1991-1995)
  • Porn Poetry (1996-1997)[15]
  • Steven X and Barbara C (1999-2000)
  • The Panhandler Project (2004-2006)[16]
  • Desperado (2004-2006)[17]

Selected essays[edit]

  • Degenevieve, Barbara (March 2007). "Censorship in the US or fear and loathing of the arts". Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture. 13 (2): 159–173. doi:10.1080/13504630701235549. S2CID 143738504.
  • Degenevieve, Barbara (January 2014). "The emergence of non-standard bodies and sexualities". Porn Studies. 1 (1–2): 193–196. doi:10.1080/23268743.2014.888253.


  1. ^ "About - Barbara DeGenevieve". Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  2. ^ Schemo, Diana Jean (November 3, 1994). "Endowment Ends Program Helping Individual Artists". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  3. ^ "Fuzzy Logic: "I know it when I see it" and other hazards for artists". NMC Media-N. 2013-03-24. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  4. ^ Tribune, Chicago. "Barbara DeGenevieve, provocative artist, dies". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  5. ^ "Degenevieve, Barbara". Museum of Contemporary Photography. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  6. ^ Dennis, Kelly (2009). Art/Porn: A History of Seeing and Touching. Oxford and New York: Berg, Ltd. pp. 183–94. ISBN 9781847880673.
  7. ^ "Network cultures
  8. ^ Eltagouri, Marwa. "Barbara DeGenevieve, provocative artist, dies". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  9. ^ "Barbara DeGenevieve: Medusa's Cave". Iceberg Projects. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Dean Jensen Gallery". Kissy-Kissy. Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  11. ^ Weinstein, Michael A. "Beyond the Binaries: Crossing the Boundaries of Identity Politics" (PDF). Gallery 400. University of Illinois at Chicago. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  12. ^ "I Smell Sex". Visual AIDS. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  13. ^ Sherlock, Maureen P. (1998) Published on the occasion of an exhibition organized and presented by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Sheboygan, Wisconsin: John Michael Kohler Arts Center. p. 22
  14. ^ DeGenevieve, Barbara. "Images from Boys of Albuquerque". fStopped. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  15. ^ DeGenevieve, Barbara. "Porn Poetry". Cargo Collective. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  16. ^ "The Panhandler Project (video documentation)". Reframing Photography. Routledge. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  17. ^ DeGenevieve, Barbara. "Desperado". Vimeo.

External links[edit]